Disclosing disability to an employer

This information applies to England and Wales.

You can mention disability to your employer at any point. You could ask what support is available. Or you can ask for a specific adjustment. This could be when:

  • your condition changes
  • your role has changed
  • you become disabled
  • you receive a diagnosis

You can also talk about your condition before you start your job. It is your choice if you mention your impairment or condition at all.

For example, you could mention it:

  • in your application form
  • in a job interview
  • when you are employed

Mentioning disability will give you:

  • reasonable adjustments to enable you to work
  • Access to Work grants

Reasonable adjustments

Once your employer knows you are disabled, they must consider your request for support.

The Equality Act 2010 requires an employer to make reasonable adjustments to enable a disabled person to work. You can talk about reasonable adjustments at any point.

A reasonable adjustment could be:

  • physical, such as a ramp or adapted equipment
  • changes to your working pattern or hours
  • support and training

If you think a change to your job would help, you can ask if this could be a reasonable adjustment. Your employer will decide whether it’s reasonable.

What is ‘reasonable’?

Make it clear that you are interested in working to find suitable adjustments. Employers often appreciate you explaining what they can do to help you, particularly if you have a less visible condition.

You may wish to explain what support you had in previous roles. You can also talk about things that help you in your daily life.

You can ask your line manager or HR about reasonable adjustments.

Reasonable adjustments at work

Employers must look at the benefits of a reasonable adjustment. If they reject a request, they must say why.

If your employer rejects your adjustments at work

Access to Work grants

Access to Work grants can help pay for adjustments at work and for specialist assessments. These are Government grants but it's your responsibility to apply for them. You have a right to apply for this support.

You can apply for Access to Work online or by phone.

Apply for Access to Work (GOV.UK)

If you do not know what adjustments you need, an Access to Work assessment can help. This is not the same as an occupational health assessment.

Access to Work grant scheme

Advantages of mentioning disability

Your application should be about how your skills and experience make you the right person for the role. You do not need to focus on your condition in your application form unless you want to.

You do not have to answer any questions about disability.

As well as giving you access to reasonable adjustments, including your condition might increase your chances of getting an interview or job offer if:

  • the employer wants to interview more disabled people
  • it’s relevant to the skills needed for the job

Disability-friendly employers

For example, if your experience of disability is something that would be valuable in the role, you could add this to your skills and experience.

If your condition has given you transferable skills, such as adapting to change or time management, you can include these as strengths.

Disadvantages of mentioning disability

Disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people.

If you say that you're disabled in your application:

  • you may be at increased risk of discrimination
  • the employer could focus on your condition instead of your skills and experience

If you mention your condition on the application form, and do not receive an interview, this could be discrimination. But this is hard to prove.

You might want to wait until you have a job offer to mention your condition. If the offer is withdrawn, it’s easier to prove this is discrimination.

Disability discrimination at work

Equal opportunities form should not affect your application

Some employers may use a separate form to ask if you’re disabled. This is often called ‘equal opportunities’ or ‘monitoring’.

Answering that you are disabled on this form should not affect your application.

If you want the employer to know about your condition, mention it in your application as well.

The person who interviews you may not see this form.

If you need support for your interview or test

You will need to talk about your condition if you need adjustments in your interview or for a test.

Asking for adjustments at interview

Some application forms will ask you if you need any adjustments in your interview. If you do, fill this in. Waiting until later may mean that the employer cannot provide the adjustments in time for your interview.

If the application form does not ask if you need adjustments, wait until you are offered an interview. Then you can talk about what you need.

Talking about disability at a job interview

Whether you talk about your condition is your choice. You can decide before the interview whether you will talk about it or not. It may help you feel prepared for the interview and focus on proving your suitability for the role.

Disability should not be the subject of the interview. You could discuss the support you may need if offered the job. You could also show how your experiences as a disabled person will help you to do the role. If you’ve performed well in previous jobs or volunteering, mentioning these will be an advantage.

As a disabled person, you are the expert on your condition. Only discuss what you feel comfortable with. Talk positively and offer solutions rather than presenting problems.

For example, do not talk about things that you will find difficult. Instead, discuss how small changes can enable you to work more effectively.

If you wish, ask open questions that do not need a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, such as:

  • How do you make sure everyone is able to give their best performance at work?
  • What do you do to encourage employee health and wellbeing?

If your interviewer asks about your condition or impairment

Your interview should not focus on your condition. Your interviewer might ask questions about your condition or how it affects you. It’s up to you how you respond.

You could challenge inappropriate questions by asking if all candidates had to answer that question.

Or you can politely decline to answer, for example:

  • “I don’t feel it’s appropriate to discuss that at this stage.”
  • “We can discuss that when you offer me the job.”

They should not ask how many sick days you had in your last job. If this happens, you could answer without giving an exact number. For example:

  • "Sickness wasn’t a problem in my last job."
  • “I feel that I am able to do this job reliably.”

Explaining employment gaps due to disability

If you have had time off to manage your condition, you might have gaps in your employment. Knowing how you will explain these can help. Only share the information you want.

For example, you could say:

  • “I was not working for health reasons.”
  • “I was ill and getting treatment.”

Having time off work to manage your condition is not a weakness.

Talking to your employer about disability

Talk to your employer if you’re worried that there are barriers to you doing your job or that something might change in the future.

Managing attitudes to disability at work

Talking about disability

Monitor how your condition affects you. If you think your job performance is affected, talk to your manager. You should arrange a meeting as soon as you can. Explain how you might benefit from some adjustments. If you're not confident talking to your manager on your own, ask for someone to come with you. This could be a union representative or someone you work with.

If you need support at work, try to avoid a situation where your employer does not know that you’re disabled. This is because:

  • they might think you cannot do your job
  • they do not have to make adjustments unless they know you are disabled

You should not do anything at work that risks your or other people's wellbeing.

Explaining why you have not talked about your condition before

If you’ve been in your job for a while and not spoken about disability, you might be worried about mentioning it. There is no right or wrong time. It’s your decision when you choose to talk, so plan what you want to say.

Your employer might ask why you have not spoken about this before. You could say:

  • your condition has recently changed, and it is only now that it is affecting your work
  • your work has changed – it was not a problem before, but now it is
  • you needed time in the role to know what barriers there were
  • you've only just felt able to talk about your condition

Talk to our online community about problems at work

Flexible and part-time working

Last reviewed by Scope on: 22/05/2023

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